Is there such thing as a good divorce?

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June 3, 2016

Senior Solicitor Mark Christie appeared on BBC Radio Leeds earlier today to discuss whether a good divorce is possible.

He suggested that it does actually happen and is more common than contentious courtroom divorces. In amicable splits, both parties agree that their relationship has broken down and want to move on with their lives while remaining friendly with their ex, particularly when there are children involved.

However, Mark did say that the real issue comes if the parties are unable to agree on such things as finances and contact with children. This is not so much the case with pets but it does happen too.

When both parties are able to remain friendly with one another following the breakdown of their marriage, he said that it was a “pleasure.. and you know you’ve done a good job” as a family lawyer.

Mark suggested that the first goal in dealing with family law cases is to resolve things without having to go through the courts but sometimes it is not possible. He thought that the percentage of couples that are able to settle out of court could be as high as 70-75 per cent.

Transcript from Mark Christie on BBC Radio Leeds:

AE:                               Andrew Edwards

MC:                             Mark Christie

AE:                               For the last week or so it has been hard to avoid the pictures, the claims, the counterclaims about the Hollywood a-lister Johnny Depp and, it seems soon to be ex-wife, Amber Heard. As Jan Moir writes in today’s Daily Mail, “The Depp divorce? Other than a high-speed train crashing into a warehouse full of Stella McCartney jumpsuits, I can’t think of anything else that could become so ugly, so quickly. Even the corniest Hollywood scriptwriter would never have dared dream up such a dramatic scenario, with each new revelation more astonishing than the last.” And so it goes on, from the Daily Mail today. At the heart of this, it seems to me at least is the sad story of a couple splitting up with allegations of domestic abuse, concerns about money and even, though they’ve likely got different name to your dog or cat, custody of pets. When you start talking about that, it sounds a bit more familiar doesn’t it? So what about real life? By that I mean our lives here and now in West Yorkshire, is it possible to have a so-called ‘good’ divorce? Mark Christie is a Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law, who have offices all over the place here in West Yorkshire, in Leeds, Ilkley and Wetherby and here he is on the Big Yorkshire Phone In on BBC Radio Leeds. Mark Christie, good afternoon, how are you?

MC:                             I am good thank you, you?

AE:                               Yes, can you ever have a ‘good’ divorce?

MC:                             Yes, it happens a lot, so that’s the good news.

AE:                               When you say “it happens a lot”, what for you constitutes a good divorce then, Mark?

MC:                             I think where the parties agree that their relationship, the marriage is over; they both accept that and want to move on and they want to do it amicably. They want to talk to each other and resolve the issue that need to be resolved and remain friends afterwards, particularly if there are children.

AE:                               Johnny Depp’s, and it is ironic given that I said he’s a Hollywood a-lister and I don’t want to get into the claims and the counter claims, but it is intensely dramatic as Jan Moir writes in her article today. Some of the scenarios there, if I can put it like that, pets for example can be very difficult, concerns about money it seems we may have somebody spending more money that they are likely to have in the future if they go their separate ways. Those sort of things must be so familiar to you?

MC:                             Yes, they are very common. Sort of disputes about the financial side of things, obviously children there can be a real issue if the parties cannot agree and my practice for over 30 years has always be to try and encourage the parties to settle on amicable terms and try and remain friends so that they can continue to co-parent the children. The issue that you refer to really are common theme issues, pets not so much though that’s very emotive for the parties in question.

AE:                               The question sometimes whether parties are better friends after they have divorced, I suppose you must see that side of it and I imagine that we all get satisfaction from our jobs but you must sometimes feel, well that’s a job well done when you see two civilised grownup people talking to each other afterwards.

MC:                             Absolutely, it does happen and it is a pleasure when you see that and you know you’ve done a good job.

AE:                               What about the other side of it, when it doesn’t always go well, I know people from my own circle of life, and I am not going to give any details, for whom now this is still an enormously sore area. Limited conversations, shuttling backwards and forwards, children being passed over from here to there, you know what I’m talking about, Mark.

MC:                             Sure, well unfortunately we have to deal with that day in and day out and it is a question of how you try and deal with that as members of resolution which is a family law solicitors groups which tries to encourage amicable solutions. Our first goal is always to try and encourage people to think realistically about their outcomes and have realistic expectation and to try and resolve things amicably without having to go to court. Unfortunately you do get cases when the parties can’t agree and then it is a case of trying to manage those expectations and deal with it as best you can but always try to encourage the parties to agree if at all possible, but you do get cases where it just won’t happen.

AE:                               Percentage wise and you mention the name of a group whose name implies want to sort things out by talking rather than going to court, how much ends up in court and how much can you sort out without going there?

MC:                             I think the good news is really, it is sort of 70-75 per cent of cases do settle without having to go to court.

AE:                               And those that do, it’s funny the image I have are images from TV and film, the dramatic one side saying one thing the other side saying another, each side pushing for as much as it can get. Does that happen?

MC:                             It does if it goes it court, often it does. Although the good news is the court process is very much designed to try and encourage the parties to reach an agreement even though one of them has issued court proceedings. Even when you are in a situation where court proceedings are being issued, the whole sort of process is designed to encourage the parties to reach an agreement wherever possible so even at that stage, agreements do get arrived at. It is only a few cases that then go on not to settle and the court to decide for the parties

AE:                               Here are you and I having a chat today, Mark, let me just ask you as a professional with a lot of years’ experience, what do you made when you watch something like the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard situation playing out in front of the world?

MC:                             It is Hollywood isn’t it, and it is difficult to relate to that but, like you say, there are common threads there with ordinary people in the street, it is just that with Hollywood a-listers it is all over the papers and everybody knows everybody’s business.

AE:                               Yet with most of our lives, the scenarios may be similar but script lines are just a little less dramatic. Mark, really good to speak to you, thank you very much indeed.

MC:                             You are very welcome.

AE:                               Mark Christie, Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law who have got offices in Leeds, Wetherby and Ilkley, here in West Yorkshire and offices elsewhere further afield as well.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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